LOADING...

























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST

I cannot remember how many times I have seen the Çoruh, but what I do know is that each time I have felt fresh excitement, particularly when watching people pit their skills against its wild waters. The Çoruh River in Turkey's northeastern province of Artvin is one of the best rivers in the world for rafting and canoeing. After the World Rafting Championship was held here in 1993, the number of people coming here to enjoy these sports soared dramatically. In recent years it has become a common sight to see canoeing on the various branches of the Çoruh, such as the Barhal River in Yusufeli. Canoeing is still not a well-known sport in Turkey, and most of those who come are foreigners, such as David, who has been coming to Yusufeli every summer for over ten years. The local people say affectionately that he has become one of them, and look forward to his arrival each year. David is an experienced professional canoer who has been ranked in numerous international competitions, and as an instructor accompanies groups of European tourists for canoeing expeditions in Turkey.

PAGE 1/6


























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST

The Çoruh is ideal for white river canoeing, with its rapid waters flowing through some of the deepest gorges in Turkey for 354 kilometres before crossing the frontier into Georgia for the final 22 kilometres to the Black Sea. The enormous length of its course through mountainous terrain makes the region one of great importance for water sports. The river rises in the Mescit Mountains, and is joined in turn by its principal tributaries, the Barhal, Oltu, and Berta, the latter river joining the Çoruh just north of the provincial capital of Artvin. Particularly during the spring, when the river is swollen with melting snow, the raging water heightens the excitement of canoeing. Canoeing, which today forms several categories in the Olympic Games, was first developed as a sport by the Scotsman John MacGregor. The International Canoeing Society established in 1924 became the International Canoeing Federation in 1936. To the uninitiated canoeing might appear deceptively simple, but in fact it takes several years to become proficient.

PAGE 2/6


























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST
It is impossible to battle successfully with the turbulent water without rigorous training, but having once tasted the exhilaration of this sport, you will be hooked for life. We were eager to complete our preparations and reach the Çoruh as soon as possible, to enjoy hours of excitement negotiating the rapids. We carefully loaded the canoes onto the minibus first, followed by the rest of our equipment. Everything fitted neatly into place, the result of years of experience. I was charged with the job of shopping, and rushed happily off to the grocery store. With the ten of us seated again, we drove away from Yusufeli along the road which follows the course of the Barhal, and began to climb into the mountains. Far off the Altiparmak Mountains could be seen, which meant that we were still in the Black Sea region, but here was none of that luxuriant vegetation characteristic of the coast.
PAGE 3/6


























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST

Instead the scenery around us was predominatly painted in tones of yellow, a typical sign of the continental climate of the interior, walled off from the coast by the Eastern Black Sea Mountains. The road, which faithfully follows the course of the river for most of the way, brought us to our starting point in nearly two hours. Because this stretch of the river is narrower than that downstream it flows more swiftly, enhancing the excitement of canoeing. Having floated our canoes and set out, we were soon delighted at the number of rapids. When we approached a large waterfall, however, David went ahead to check out the currents and decide which way we should go. For the benefit of the unexperienced members of the team, he repeated his instructions several times. I saw David drop over the waterfall, and for an instant only his oars were visible in the air. The others followed David over the fall one by one, the canoes making a colourful sight as they were swept along. David gathered the group together in the pool at the foot of the fall, only to discover that one of the novices was missing.

PAGE 4/6


























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST
He immediately headed for the spot where the canoeist had disappeared beneath the surface of the water, preparing a rescue rope as he advanced. But as we watched, holding our breath in apprehension, our companion bobbed to the surface, and we all sighed with relief. As we were swept downstream we frequently passed old hanging bridges and traditional Artvin houses made of wood with sheet metal roofs. At one point on the route a minibus on its way to the alpine pasture of Hevek stopped beside the river for a few minutes to watch us curiously. I had not had any lessons in canoeing, but as a child I had acquired a skill which stood me in good stead when I tried my hand at the sport: floating on inner tyres. Now I took the opportunity to demonstrate my virtuosity in this respect.
PAGE 5/6


























Canoeing on the Çoruh
2002 / AUGUST

Setting a broad plank of wood on top of an inner tyre, and seating myself comfortably upon this primitive raft, I floated gently on a shallow and calm stretch of water near to Yusufeli. The sight must have been entertaining, as our expedition concluded with laughter all round.

* Ibrahim Yogurtçu is a photographer.

PAGE 6/6
 

























Previous Next